Brian Azzarello and Danijel Zezelj’s El Diablo: Authenticity in Simplicity

Decoding DC  – Part 15

El_Diablo_v.2_2Extremites, dialogue is a beast to write. Write it too stilted and readers are drawn out of the story. Too colloquial, the readers have no clue what is going on and give up out of frustration. It is the writer’s job to create authentic clear dialogue that shows character and makes the story coherent and compelling. Brian Azzarello does just that in his redux of El Diablo.

In my articles about Joe R. Lansdale’s Jonah Hex, I often noted that the dialogue ‘seemed wrong.’ I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. The lines were alien in the world they existed in.

Azzarello’s dialogue, on the other hand, reads great and, even though I am still cold to Zezelj’s art, the voices present within El Diablo are clear, well defined, and rich.

The narration is clear and rich. It transcends the usual comic exposition to a stylized, almost noir, poetic soliloquy. For example, Moses’ introduction to his new position would be at home in an Elmore Leonard novel: “I’m a sheriff now — a peacekeeper.” It is brilliant in its simplicity.

Even the cliches are authentic. Moses begins this issue with his posse around a camp fire. Even though it is a cliche it doesn’t feel like this is a comment on campfires in Westerns. The dialogue flows easily. Not until the sixth panel does anyone mention El Diablo. There’s no rush to get to the story. Azzarello spends time building his characters.

Azzarello devotes a lot of this paneling to the establishment of El Diablo. In a lesser comic this establishment might be done through a lengthy flashback. Azzarello uses the campfire as a place for active exposition recounting El Diablo’s origin story as a cowboy might tell a Western tall tale.

To further the tall tale of El Diablo, after disembodied laughter, he appears at the campfire. This haunting scene is the first time Zezelj’s artwork has worked for me. His detailing of El Diablo is both human and animalistic. Zezelj’s extends ED’s arms to the point of grotesquery. The construction of his hands are claw-like while remaining human. It gives El Diablo an edge that shows his otherworldliness and his human origin.

After the campfire showdown, Moses and his posse pursue the outlaw into the desert where they come upon a saloon with a white horse tied to the posts. Moses attacks the house and, when he enters, he’s mistaken by a roustabout for a fellow named Elmer Huskey. Moses guns him down. There is an edge to Sheriff Stone. He is not all he seems.

Stone’s dialogue is peppered with chivalrous etiquette that is pleasant but distant. From the beginning there is a sense that Stone is hiding something. When the saloon roustabout recognizes Moses as a man named Elmer, Stone starts speaking in a monosyllabic way. The etiquette has left his speech. For a moment, Moses seems like a different character.

The issue rounds off with another cliffhanger. While Moses is gunning down people in a saloon, one of the members of the posse is attacked and hung by his own intestines.

Talk about a visceral image.

Zezelj’s wispy art doesn’t show the brutality of this murder. It’s airbrushed and is not in any way arresting

The edge to Moses Stone is a result of the deft hand of Brian Azzarello. He understands the importance of good dialogue in the construction of a character. Art takes a back seat in this issue to good writing.

Great dialogue is rare in a medium where writing is often maligned for colour.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

The Story I Read: El Diablo Part II” (El Diablo #2 Apr. 2001)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pros: Great dialogue. Some unexpected twists and turns. Slow burn is earned.

Cons: Dusty dry art. Blasé character rendering by Zezelj. With the exception of El Diablo, all characters look the same. Sometimes I got confused which character was which.

Upcoming Review:El Diablo Part III” (El Diablo #3 May 2001)

Previous Review:El Diablo Part I” (El Diablo #1 Mar. 2001)


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on July 2, 2014, in DC, El Diablo and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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